C is for Cylops
Scott ‘Slim’ Summers first appeared alongside the Beast (see last post) in X-Men 1 back in 1963 and has been there ever since.
Scott was the first son of Christopher (Corsair) Summers and his wife Catherine and has one brother called Alex (more on him later) there have been retcons, but were ARE NOT DISCUSSING VULCAN……
Ok, got a little off track there, on a flight in the family plane, Alex and Scott were shoved out with a parachute as the plane was going down. The boys lost their parents in the crash (or what turned out to be an alien abduction, yeah, that’s a thing that happened) and the boys were put up for adoption/fostering. While Alex was taken in by a family and until around 18 or so had a fairly regular upbringing, Scott was less lucky. Raised in an orphanage run by a supervillain (yup that’s right) and isolated from any positive influences, Scott was pretty much alone without the fact he could generate powerful beams of force from his eyes that he had no control over. Late into his teenage years, he got involved with a criminal called Jack of Diamonds and this is how he got the attention of Professor Charles Francis Xavier. Finally given positive reinforcement, encouragement and purpose, Xavier became as much a father to Scott as anyone and was fundamental in the formation of the first class of the X-Men.
Unlike many of the X-Men, who have had lives external to the team and it’s dream of policing the evil members of mutantkind to foster peace with the rest of humanity, Scott has only ever been a super hero. Beast is a scientist, Iceman is a chartered accountant, Angel has his own company and so on. All Scott has wanted to do was be what he was for Xavier. The argument can be made that he was groomed and radicalised for Xavier’s crusade and this lack of external life is to do with the fact that Scott can’t do people stuff. He’s dated telepaths, was trained by one and so never had to tell people how he felt, to the extent that he doesn’t really emote that well. To get out of that rut, he married a woman (clone of his dead high school girlfriend, yup because he needed more reasons to go insane) and that imploded rather dramatically. After he learned his dead high school girl friend was less than dead, he left his family (not for the first time) and ran back to her, because being an X-Man is really all he can do.
My take on the guy has always been that he was trained to be a super hero, but not raised to be a person. He’s good at strategy, is the king of weird laser beam angles and can make a team out of any group of people. In Marvel, there is no doubt that Captain America is the best of the hero-team leaders, but the next two places in that list should go to Cyclops and Storm.
His best stories have been X-Men ones written by Chris Claremont and X-Factor by Louise Simonson, they portray a conflicted man, trying to be a good person and be there for friends or family, but not always knowing how and at times making shockingly bad choices. His is also one of the hearts of the X-Men, has been a father, son, grandfather of sorts. He’s been a superhero, mutant hunter, school teacher, headmaster and at times terrorist. Often dismissed for being ‘boring’ he is a lead character in one of the most enduring comics franchises in the last 60 years.
Also Josh Whedon wrote an excellent deconstruction of Cyclops during his Astonishing X-Men run, something of a highlight of the last dozen years.
C is for Cable
While we talk about Cyclops, I mentioned that he was a father, his son was sent into the future (I know, right?) and when he was maybe 40 or so? Came back as the man called Cable, after living large in the X-Force title and enjoying some star turns elsewhere, the spin-off crazy Marvel office in the 90’s gave him a limited series and then an ongoing.
The limited series was written by Fabian Nicieza and drawn by John Romita Jr. It was mainly used to set up the upcoming X-Cutioner’s Song crossover, but even years later, still stands up as a consistent stand alone story.
The ongoing series, started by Fabian Nicieza and Art Thibert, doesn’t have those things going for it, rotating creative teams, constant crossing over into other titles and to be honest most of the time, you got the impressed the X-Office didn’t quite know what to do with Cable, the most used name for Nathan Dayspring Askani’son Summers (I’d have shortened it too) and his adventures. Issues one and two were a sci-fi action/time travel story, three was a bottle episode that was well written and paced, if not drawn. There was no consistency or originality to much of the early issues, I enjoyed the three parter with D’Spayre, but not much beyond that.
Rocky as it was, there were some excellent periods in this title’s history
Issue 15 – 25 was written by Jeph Loeb with art by Steve Scroce, replaced by Ian Churchill, with colourful art and an attempt to deepen Cable’s character.
Written by James Robinson initially, but followed up by Joe Casey, this was a memoerable run due to the stylistic Kirby-esque art of Jose Ladronn, who’s art created a very different book, my favourite era to be honest.
After that the title lost it’s way again, but those two or three dozen issues remain quality comics of the 1990’s.
I did a more impassioned defence of Cable as a character here … https://misfitmunky.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/in-defense-of-cable/
C is for Crisis
To the average person, you say the word crisis, they think of several definitions, the turning point, state of instability, the danger or some catastrophy (although someone I spoke to said the first place he went was the game Time Crisis) but to a comic fan, you say Crisis, they see this ….
Crisis is mostly used as a DC relating to a large story, involving characters who don’t normally interact, in order to understand it better, we need a bit of a history lesson.
In the 1940’s at the height of the original super-hero boom, the company that would become DC Comics produced a load of characters, many forming the Justice Society of America. Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman and the Atom, to name just a few. In a post-war, post Wertham time, super-heroes faded from popularity and many of these characters and eventually the Justice Society itself, just dropped out of sight.
In the mid 50s under the watch of Julius ‘Julie’ Schwartz, many of the names I meantioned earlier returned, but with new names under the mask. In 1942 the Flash was a chemist from Keystone City called Jay Garrick, while in 1957, it was a Central City police scientist called Barry Allen. Two very different characters, so it was only a matter of time, since the writer was the same, they the two could meet, although Barry read comics with Jay in it. The solution to this minor problem was parallel Earths and from this came the DC multiverse. The Justice Society was from Earth 2 and the newer heroes, including the Barry Allen Flash was from Earth 1. The story was Flash 123, the Flash of Two Worlds. The rest of the forgotten heroes were seen again and then came several team ups between Earths 1 & 2, these stories (often called Crisis on… something) and there was now a new Earth with different versions of much loved characters, on Earth 2, there was a dead Batman, a married Superman and the sons and daughters of the JSA, Infinity Inc. Then DC started buying characters from other publishers, Earth 4 has the Charlton (Blue Beetle, Captain Atom & the Question) characters, Earth S had the Fawcett heroes (Captain Marvel, Bulleteer, Tawky Tawny) and Earth X had the Quality heroes (Uncle Sam, the Ray, Black Condor) and there was even Earth 3 (the evil Crime Syndicate version of the Justice League) and to be honest, it was getting out of hand.
Published in 1985, Crisis on Infinite Earth was a sprawling 12 issue story, which served to reboot and reorganise this outlandish DC Universe into something that a new reader can actually understand. Now there wasn’t a multiverse, just one, one Batman, one Superman, one Flash, one history. The idea was that this would clean up all of the continuity and fix all the plot holes.
Then came other attempts to fix this and then after 20 years came Infinite Crisis and a couple of years later Final Crisis. The impact of the first one cannot be under-estimated and as a result, the word Crisis gets attached to Crisis on Infinite Earths, rather than other comics with the name Crisis on there.
The universe that it created was destroyed in 2011’s New 52, but Crisis has a strong historical power and every now and again, it’s a series I will re-read.
and finally….C is for Captain Carrott